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I suddenly feel stupid for thinking I was about to be killed. Of course I wasn’t. Numbers Three and Four have to die before I can. I should have been worried about being captured and tortured for information. Not that Rey ever tells me anything.
And I realize what this is about. Ever since the scar appeared, it’s like something within Rey snapped. He’s been getting sicker the last few years, and I’m not anywhere as strong as he thinks I should be. I haven’t developed any of the magic powers I’m supposed to have. Neither of us can put up a good fight. That’s why we’re here on this stupid island, hiding.
Rey’s eyes have been on the ground, but he finally raises them to mine, looking at me for a long moment. Then he nods at the Chest.
“Carry it back,” he says. Then he’s shuffling off into the darkness, leaving me in the sparse moonlight, staring at the duffel bag that contains my Chest.
We weren’t under attack. It was only a test.
I’m not going to die on the island. At least, not tonight.
I pick up my Chest, hugging it close to me, letting the corners dig into my stomach.
I stare into the blackness that Rey has disappeared into, and in that moment there’s only one emotion filling me. Not fear or relief or even shame for being found out. It’s the feeling that the only person I have in this world has betrayed me.
THE SUN RISES AS I WASH OFF IN THE OCEAN and think of Canada, the first place I remember living here on Earth.
I really liked Canada.
In Canada we ate butter tarts and French fries covered in gravy and rubbery globs of cheese, all served out of carts on the sides of the roads. Even when it was summer there it wasn’t all that hot. I learned a little bit of French. Rey didn’t like the cold, but I did. He was Albert in Canada, a name he’d picked after seeing Alberta on a map, thinking it would make him sound like more of a local. “Old Al” he called himself sometimes when talking to servers or cashiers. I always thought it was funny when he dumbed his personality down and pretended to be my grandfather at times like that, using words like “whippersnapper” that he’d picked up from the TV. No one questioned the kindly old man and his grandson.
I was Cody then. I liked being Cody. I was a person, not just Five. At night, Rey would tell me about Lorien and the Mogadorians and the other Garde—my kindred spirits scattered across the world—and how one day we’d bring about the glorious return of our home planet. Back then, everything seemed like a fairy tale. All the aliens and powers and other worlds were nothing but stories to get me to do my chores. Didn’t clean up after yourself? Lorien didn’t stand a chance. Forget to brush your teeth? The Mogs would get you for sure.
Then they actually came.
We’d been living up near Montreal for six months—maybe a whole year—when Rey found out they were coming for us. I’m still not sure how. All I know is that suddenly I was running through the woods behind our little cottage while a few Mogadorians tracked me. I was six years old, scared out of my mind. Eventually I’d hidden in a tree. I thought I was a goner until Rey appeared, taking out the Mogs with a broken-off shovel and a shotgun he’d bought on the black market. He’s always been good with tools.
“Albert . . .” I’d said from the tree. We always called each other by our false names, never knowing who was listening. “Are they gone?”
“Albert’s dead,” Rey had said. I knew what he meant, even though I was so young. I’d felt it in my gut. It meant we weren’t safe. It meant we couldn’t stay there, in that place I liked so much.
So we went on the move, and we didn’t stop for a long time.
Rey was Aaron after that, followed by Andy, Jeffrey, and then James. I was Zach, Carson, and then Bolt, which was the last name I got to pick before Rey started choosing them. Maybe I’m forgetting a few in there—it all seems so long ago. I know that I was Carson when Rey’s cough first appeared, along with the dark hollows under his eyes. We were camping in the Appalachians. He thought it was the cold that was making him sick, so we started moving south, making our way through the United States and towards a warmer climate. Eventually—after a few sketchy boat rides Rey arranged for us—we set up camp in Martinique, where we stayed for a while. But Rey’s cough just got worse. He kept telling me he was feeling better, but at some point I stopped believing him.
I was always the better liar.
As a kid, I thought of lies as little stories or games. Sometimes people we came across would ask questions—Where were my parents? Where was I born?—and I’d just start talking, making up these elaborate histories for Rey and me. Having secrets means you do a lot of lying. Not because you’re evil or a bad person or anything like that, but out of necessity.
Really, Rey trained me to lie about all those morning runs and hikes. I make a mental note to tell him this later.
Sometimes I wonder if Rey is crazy. Like, what if he’s just a really messed-up old guy who stole me from a loving, normal home and all of this alien stuff is simply made up? Maybe he gave me drugs or brainwashed me into having fake memories of some place that couldn’t possibly exist. All my life I’ve heard about Lorien, but the only proof I have that any of it is true is a few weird-looking guys who came after me in Canada.
Well, that plus two scars that appeared like magic on my ankle and a Chest that’s supposed to house all kinds of treasures. A Chest that doesn’t open no matter how much you prod at it—I know, because I’ve tried about a million times to find out what’s inside over the years.